Thanksgiving Day NFL Betting Preview: Bears at Lions

In the annual Thanksgiving tradition, the Detroit Lions will play a meaningless game kicking off shortly after you wake up. If it wasn’t for fantasy football and sports betting, it would probably be easy to avoid the Chicago Bears heading to Detroit, but lucky for us we live in a world where money will be changing hands on every play of the early Thanksgiving Day game.

Lions Offense vs. Bears Defense

The biggest factor in this game is the fact that Matthew Stafford is still out with his back injury. Backing up Stafford has been Jeff Driskel, a former wide receiver turned quarterback who didn’t look particularly bad against the Bears a few weeks ago. The Bears got word that Driskel would be playing just hours before game time, so Driskel may have had the slight advantage of catching the defense off guard and unprepared.

Driskel has great mobility and size at 6-4, 235 pounds, and he has looked surprisingly capable as a passer. However, the Lions have yet to win a game he’s started, and most recently lost to Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Redskins on Sunday, 19-16.

The Bears will have the advantage of being able to watch tape of Driskel, and deciphering what worked for him in their first meeting on November 10. In that game, Driskel went 27-46 for 269 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. He also ran the ball 5 times for 37 yards. In his three games this year for the Lions, Driskel has 22 rushes for 151 yards, so he presents a challenge with his legs.

The Lions have also discovered that Bo Scarbrough may be more than capable as a running back. The second-year back out of Alabama has decent size at 6-1, 235 pounds and is coming off a productive game with 18 carries for 98 yards. Scarbrough has played in just two games now after being picked up by the Lions and has amassed 153 yards on 32 carries, good for 4.8 yards per attempt.

The Lions offensive line ranks just 23rd in adjusted line yards, but Scarbrough has been able to find holes despite not having a lot of help from his line. Where the Lions excel is in pass protection, ranking 8th in adjusted sack rate. And without Akiem Hicks on the defensive line, the Bears are much less potent on that side of the ball, ranking 24th in adjusted line yards and 17th in adjusted sack rate.

With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones on the outside, the Lions also possess enough skill at wide receiver to make Driskel look like a capable quarterback. But with that said, Driskel could only manage 207 yards passing against the Redskins last week, with three interceptions to just one touchdown. For the Lions to win this game, they’ll have to establish Scarbrough on the ground, and get key third-down conversions with Driskel’s legs.

However, Driskel may not be able to play as he is listed questionable with a hamstring injury. If Driskel can’t go, the Lions will be forced to play rookie David Blough. Blough was a three-star recruit that played collegiately at Purdue and went undrafted this past year. The Browns originally picked him up as an undrafted free agent and traded him to the Lions in August in a swap of 7th round picks.

Bears Offense vs. Lions Defense

Mitchell Trubisky is one of the biggest enigmas in the sport. After posting the #3 QBR in the league last year, Trubisky has regressed mightily in 2019 and currently ranks at #31 in the league with a 35.9 QBR. That number is ahead of only Mason Rudolph and Marcus Mariota. However, the last time Trubisky played the Lions he put up one of his best games, completing 16-23 passes for 173 yards with 3 TD and 0 INT.

It’s telling when citing one of a player’s best games and that game has under 200 passing yards. In fact, Trubisky has yet to post a 300-yard passing game this season. The closest he’s come was on Sunday against the Giants, with 278 passes yards going 25-41 with 1 TD to 2 INT.

The Bears are also one of the least effective offenses at moving the ball on the ground, ranking 29th in both adjusted line yards and in rushing yards per game. The Bears do have a legitimate #1 wide receiver in Allen Robinson, who is 20th in the league with 764 receiving yards to go along with 4 TD. But, they will be missing their top three tight ends on the depth chart, as well as wide receiver Taylor Gabriel who is in the concussion protocol.

The Spread and Total

The look-ahead line on this game was Lions -1.5 points, and by Sunday morning before kickoff, it had opened up at pick’em. Since Sunday, the Bears have taken the vast majority of the tickets and the money in this game, pushing the spread all the way to Bears as road favorites of three points. Although, some books are still sitting at 2.5, so make sure to shop around for the best number.

This is most likely due to a combination of factors, but mainly the uncertainty at quarterback for the Lions. Currently, 78% of the bets and 83% of the money has been wagered on Chicago.

The total opened at 41 points and has been bet down everywhere. Some books have 38.5 posted, while others are still at 39 points, but no one is higher. This should be a low scoring game and points will likely be at a premium.

Thanksgiving Day Trends

  • Favorites are 73.2-percent ATS going 30-11 since 2003.
  • While it doesn't apply to this game, in that same time period, favorites by over six points are 16-3 ATS.

By Kyle Johansen

@kylejohansen


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